clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Winners and losers from the first unofficial day of NFL Free Agency

There were some splashy moves and some sneaky brilliance on the first day of the legal tampering period.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Monday kicked off with a flurry of “signings.” The quotations are important, because we’re in the middle of a legal tampering period where deals can be agreed to, but not finalized until Wednesday at noon.

It’s easily the stupidest part of the NFL calendar. Nobody can adequately explain why we have this 48 hour period, especially when everyone and their brother knows teams are discussing deals with agents at the combine — but **nudge, nudge, wink, wink** that’s definitely not happening, right?

That aside, we’ve seen some huge deals inked, and it’s here I feel it necessary to talk about the Jacksonville Jaguars. Honestly, I’ve been struggling to articulate how I feel about their day. On the one hand, the Jags had the most money in free agency, and it was beyond time to loosen the purse strings and get some players, but on the other they ran into Monday like a sailor on shore leave and spent almost $50M in cap space to sign, or re-sign six players.

Let’s take a look at who they got with this money.

  • WR Christian Kirk — 4 years, up to $84M
  • G Brandon Scherff — 3 years, $49.5M
  • LB Foyesade Olukun — 3 years, $45M
  • DT Folorunso Fatukasi — 3 years, $30M
  • WR Zay Jones — 3 years, $24M
  • TE Evan Engram — 1 year, $9M

I really don’t know how I feel about this. It’s been rolling around in my head for most of the afternoon. On the one hand I really like this group of players, and I know they’ll make the Jaguars better, but on the other I really wish Jacksonville spread the love a little further to upgrade more positions.

The big critique is going to be Christian Kirk, I get it. The contract is partially a huge leap of faith that he can become a featured No. 1 receiver, and partly that a team as bad as Jacksonville has to overpay to attract big-name free agents. The construction of the deal is actually very fair, and not something that will handicap the team long term if the gamble doesn’t pay off.

I think my issue, as it’s been with Jaguars’ free agencies of the past, is that they went for a quality over quantity approach when this franchise really needs quantity. It’s not Kirk, it’s Kirk AND Scherff AND Olukun AND Fatukasi, which now leaves the Jaguars with roughly $10M in space (give or take). I really would have preferred to see the team aim for two of these prospects, and try to pick up a handful of players for the same cost as the others.

In many ways this feels like free agency 2017, and that’s not a good thing. The Jaguars spent big there too, signing Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye, Barry Church and traded for Branden Albert. At the time they were seem as the “big winners,” and while it took them from 3-13 to 10-6 immediately, they then crashed back down to earth because they didn’t have the depth.

My hope is that this doesn’t happen again, I just wish when the Jaguars worked to get this kind of cap space they didn’t go so hog wild, as if they’re only a couple of pieces away from contending, rather than a cellar dweller needing to build success slowly. I’m not willing to say Jacksonville is a winner, or a loser yet — more that I’m just worried.

Winner: Cincinnati Bengals

I absolutely love, love, love what the Bengals did on the first day. My fear was that this team was going to blow most of its cap on a big signing like Terron Armstead or J.C. Jackson. Instead, the Bengals made smaller, really smart deals that make them immediately better now, and the flexibility to spend more moving forward.

  • G Alex Cappa, 4 years, $35M
  • C Ted Karras, 3 years, $18M
  • Re-signed DT B.J. Hill, 3 years, $30M

Cappa and Karras are immediate starters on a woeful offensive line. Hill was a bright spot on defense that deserved to be re-signed. Most importantly: The Bengals still have $21M to play with.

There are moves to be made in the secondary to shore-up the unit, but Cincinnati took huge strides towards fixing their biggest issues on day one without being tempted into overspending.

Loser: Green Bay Packers

By no fault of their own, the Packers are losers after Day 1. This is absolutely, 100 percent because of the Jaguars.

Green Bay has an elite, top-tier receiver in Davante Adams who won’t play on the franchise tag. The Packers need to try and negotiate a new contract. Now they have to do it with the specter of Christian Kirk’s colossal deal.

This is bad for them, this is so monumentally bad. There’s already huge cap pressure on the team, and if Kirk is getting upwards of $70M, then it’s absolutely fair to assume Adams will feel he’s worth a $100M deal. That’s untenable for the Packers, and honestly, it’s kind of on them for not getting this extension worked out a while ago, because this is a problem.

Winner: Christian Kirk


Winner: Los Angeles Chargers

It feels a little surreal to gush over the Bengals and the Chargers in the same story, but here we are.

After years of watching Philip Rivers and Co. wither and die on the vine without getting adequate help, it’s really nice to see this team appreciate the window they have. With Justin Herbert on a rookie deal, and the Chargers already on the verge of being a playoff staple, they didn’t shy away from stepping up to the Chiefs and big-dealing Broncos to assert themselves in the AFC West.

  • CB J.C. Jackson, 5 years, $82.5M
  • DT Sebastian Joseph, 3 years, $24M
  • DT Austin Johnson, 2 years, $14M

This team went and got the best cornerback in free agency, two big, run-stopping defensive tackles — and lest we forget that they traded for Khalil Mack a few days ago, while re-signing their most important offensive free agent in Mike Williams.

This is a team that knew it needed to get better defensively and took big strides. Outside of some small moves their free agency is close to done, but this was a triumph.

Winner: Miami Dolphins

This was a sneakily smart day for the Dolphins that firmly established this team as one under construction. That’s absolutely not a bad thing. Mike McDaniel is in the process of evaluating his roster, evaluating his roster, and it would appear that GM Chris Grier isn’t being too precious about his prior players, which bodes well for the future.

  • Re-signed DE Emmanuel Ogbah for 4 years, $65.4M
  • WR Cedrick Wilson, 3 years, $22.05M
  • RB Chase Edmonds, 2 years, $12.1M
  • CB Keion Crossen, 3 years, $10.5M
  • QB Teddy Bridgewater, 1 year, $6.5M

Bridgewater on this deal is an absolute steal. There is no better bridge QB in this free agency than Teddy, and I think he can be sneaky productive if called upon. By all accounts he’s being brought in as a backup, but I think we can kind of air quote that one, because I’m not sure the Dolphins should be 100 percent sold on Tua Tagovailoa at this point.

Re-signing Ogbah was huge for the defense, and he deserved to get paid. Cedrick Wilson is an absolute steal in a market that saw former teammate Michael Gallup get big money, and Christian Kirk get a mammoth deal. Chase Edmonds is a bit of a leap of faith, but he has a skillset that can really work in a Mike McDaniel offense.

Top to bottom this was a very good day, and Miami has plenty more space.